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  • Writer's pictureThomas Maguire

POTS Soon to Be a Thing of the Past

Not a new headline that Plain Old Telephone Service (aka POTS), the legacy analog copper phone lines, are going away. While this isn’t generally a business concern for human voice telephone systems (as virtually all have already migrated to voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) or mobile) POTS’ sunsetting poses a huge challenge for the myriad of devices and systems engineered to use a POTS line for monitoring and signaling.

The problem is the combination of wireless and VoIP telephony has dramatically reduced the demand for traditional analog copper POTS lines. Maintaining complex last-century equipment for an ever-decreasing user base has become unmanageable—and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has enabled the carriers to abandon their traditional POTS infrastructure. FCC reports the number of POTS lines in the U.S. declined from 122 million in 2010 to 41 million in 2019, and many carriers are on a path to drop POTS lines within five years. Service rates for remaining POTS users are rising dramatically as POTS line providers are forced to support their remaining infrastructure from a smaller number of customers. According to the Bureau of Labor, POTS charge rates increased 36% from 2010 to 2021, while other telephone services have decreased in cost.

Uses of a POTS line for their communications include:

· Fire and burglary alarms

· Elevator

· Gate/door entry systems

· Blue phones

· ATMs

· VoIP back-ups

…and more

POTS with a modem has been the easy way to add communication for operations or management to a range of systems over the last 50 years and has also been implemented into regulation, for example NFPA 72 and UL 864 for life-safety systems. The multipart challenge here for communication network professionals is how to manage and maintain these systems for your business while also continuing service as needed (for example, with an alarm system). Most facilities have multiple POTS lines for fire and security, and often for other business systems like an ATM machine. A typical branch office or storefront may have 3 POTS lines for fire and security, in addition to lines for POS terminals. For companies with multiple offices across geographies, the POTS changes in each individual geographic area may come at different times as each local service provider sunsets their POTS infrastructure. Clearly, planning for this transition is an important 2022 activity for many organizations.

Over the past couple of years, we here at SensLynx have provided wireless POTS replacement solutions to a number of businesses. This solution takes advantage of the mobile network and rate structures that have been put in place for Internet of Things (IoT) devices and relatively low usage. These low use devices can have much lower per end-point pricing than typical mobile phones because their overall usage is much lower. For example, a typical fire/alarm POTS line will only place an outbound call if there is a fire or burglar alarm. Leveraging the mobile network for these new services enables offering a POTS replacement on wireless for equivalent cost, or even less as 5G drives new economies.

Our solution is cost-effective and will meet the regulatory requirements, post POTS. While the offers are made available through our distribution partners, we can help with choosing the right partners for your geography and needs.

For all types of businesses, POTS replacement should be a 2022 priority, first to understand the POTS sunset timing in the organization’s geographies and carriers, and second to plan for alternative solutions in the building environments. The first step is inventorying your actual POTS lines used for monitoring and other systems. Using a separate wireless option for these POTS lines are a much better solution for many organizations. Our solution can include a 4G/5G router for access path diversity, not only for the POTS monitoring but also for normal data traffic.

If you do not have a POTS replacement plan in place for your organization, now is the time to start a project to consider and plan. Whether you’re ready or not, the sunsetting of POTS and the end of traditional analog telephony is clearly on the horizon!

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